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On The Scene

Jane Arraf: Bold, well-executed attack

Jane Arraf and the damaged Al Rasheed Hotel.
Jane Arraf and the damaged Al Rasheed Hotel.

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Paul D. Wolfowitz

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A rocket attack Sunday on the Al Rashid Hotel in Baghdad killed a U.S. soldier and wounded 15 other people, a coalition spokesman said. At the time of the attack, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying at the hotel, but was unharmed.

CNN anchor Sean Callebs spoke Sunday about the incident with correspondent Jane Arraf, near the Al Rashid Hotel.

CALLEBS: We saw a very shaken Wolfowitz appear before the microphone a short while ago. Tell us what is going on there now.

ARRAF: When you look at the damage done to this hotel, it's understandable why he would have been shaken. Now, he was actually staying on one of those top floors, believed to be on the 12th floor. We're not sure what side.

But just below there, on the floors just below of this luxury hotel, six rockets, at least, came slamming in. You can see that they went through some of those rooms, blowing out windows, blowing out frames, destroying part of the side of the hotel.

One American soldier has been killed, four wounded, as well as seven American civilians wounded in this blast. Four others wounded as well, possibly Iraqi.

This appears to have been a very bold and very well-executed attack. In fact, the rockets were launched just a few hundred meters from here on a major intersection. Although there's very heavy security on this side, including the Al Rashid Hotel, we are in the middle of Baghdad and there's traffic coming and going.

At 6 a.m., the trailer that the rocket launchers appeared to have been in wouldn't have attracted a lot of notice. There are similar trailers going throughout the city with generators and street equipment. Apparently these rockets were launched from the trailer.

No sign of the attackers who appear to have fled, executing what is probably one of the boldest attacks in months in Baghdad.

CALLEBS: Earlier you talked about this being one of the "green zones," one of the highest level of secured area in Baghdad. Just a couple weeks ago we saw the suicide bomber at the Baghdad Hotel. Is there a sense that there is really no place safe in the Iraqi capital nowadays?

ARRAF: What U.S. Officials have been relying on is their ability to get better intelligence and work with the Iraqi police in some cases to make more arrests, to actually crack down on these cells of opposition that they're facing.

But if somebody wants to carry out an attack like this, there really isn't much protection. This is a very secure area behind us. But beyond us, where the rockets were launched from, is a busy street and major intersection.

According to residents, there aren't a lot of American patrols here. That's been a feature of Baghdad life as well, that we have been seeing fewer U.S. patrols as more Iraqi police take over.

At 6 in the morning there wasn't much of a presence outside the perimeter and this is a very tight security perimeter, but you are absolutely right that it is a reminder, if any were needed, that there really is nowhere safe in Baghdad and in all of Iraq, and that there are significant pockets of what the U.S. continues to refer to as resistance who will do anything to try to drive out American forces.


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